…but nobody’s perfect, so why practice? Okay, okay, it’s not that funny but I couldn’t come up with anything wittier – too much eggnog I guess. So, how’s the practice going? Good question. I’ve worked on a few things over the past week, and here’s my synopsis:
1. Rail shots – I’ve developed a lot of consistency on these shots and I don’t miscue anymore. I almost always make the “reasonable” shots, but table length shots can still be a challenge. I think my skills have improved to the point that I should move on and focus on other areas that need development.
2. Bank shots – Didn’t work on this very much. My recent philosophy has been that if you run the correct routes and control cue ball distance appropriately, bank shots and other “gimmicky” shots should not be necessary. I still believe this, but just to make practice sessions interesting and help mix things up, I’ll still probably practice them about 30 minutes per week.
3. Combination shots – Worked on these a little, and saw some improvement. Of course, “improvement” is a relative term. Since I’m primarily working on my 9 Ball game, I still need to work on combinations as these shots come up relatively often.
4. Position Drills – Did a lot of work on position drills. Getting correct position from shot to shot is the name of the game, so I will definitely spend more time on position drills. More on this later.
5. Patterns – Did a lot of work on patterns as they relate to 8 Ball. Patterns are really just a combination of position drills and planning three shots ahead, except that you actually think strategically more than three shots ahead and look at the entire rack; identifying the most efficient way to work the table to get final position on the eight ball. Probably spent a little too much time on this, since my goal is to improve my 9 Ball game. Need to cut this out as it is a distraction from my main goal.
What should I work on during the coming week? Let’s keep it simple and just focus on three items:
1. 9 Ball break shots – Do deep practice sessions on this. Focus on controlling the final resting spot of the cue ball. On the break shot, the cue ball should fully hit the head ball in the rack, jump directly backwards and come to a stop in the middle of the table without hitting any rails. I plan to do three 30 minute sessions on this.
2. 9 Ball patterns – Break a 9 Ball rack and take ball in hand after the break. Try to run the rack. On any shot if I don’t achieve perfect position on the next shot, I’ll re-shoot the previous shot until I get it right, then continue running the rack. Take notes on all missed shots so that later I can do focused work on problem shots. I plan to do four 30 minute sessions on this.
3. Safety practice – At higher levels of play, if both players have the ability to run out, in the long run the player with better safety skills will almost always win. The reason? It’s all about managing probabilities. If you are aggressive and attempt to run lower percentage racks, eventually the odds catch up with you. If faced with a low percentage shot, it’s much wiser to play into a safety and force your opponent to take a very difficult shot. Lower your opponent’s probability of running out; don’t take unnecessary risks! I plan to do four 30 minute sessions on this.
Ok, let’s do the math. If I follow the plan above, this will only be about five and a half hours of practice in a week. Hummm…doesn’t seem adequate huh? I keep telling myself that quality is more important than quantity, but this doesn’t seem like enough time. I guess we will find out soon enough. My first major test will come the weekend of January 16-17 when I enter a large local 9 Ball tournament. The tournament will probably draw about 80 or 90 players and the top prize will probably be between $1,500 and $2,000. Do I expect to win? Of course not, but I would be happy to make it into the final 16.
Try and use some “muscle memory” exercises. Set up some really easy straight in the hole stop shots. Put the cue ball on one of the spots. Concentrate on your setup, stroke, and follow through so that your cue is directly over the spot 4-6 inches after the shot. Make sure you don’t move anything until the ball drops in the pocket. Do that for 10 minutes and then QUIT. Come back in a couple of hours and work on drills.